The inaugural Rochester Adams boys volleyball team will always have a special place in the school’s history after reaching the Division 1 state semifinals in its first season.

The inaugural Rochester Adams boys volleyball team will always have a special place in the school’s history after reaching the Division 1 state semifinals in its first season.

Photo provided by Rochester Community Schools

Highlanders cap off unforgettable boys volleyball season with trip to final four

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Rochester Post | Published June 5, 2024


ROCHESTER HILLS — For the past several years, it’s been the girls who have integrated into the male-dominated sports in efforts to show their capability and just how talented they can be.

With hockey, lacrosse, flag football last year, and even wrestling starting to make some strong waves, high school girls have fought to compete in sports they’re passionate about.

After the Michigan High School Athletic Association that announced boys volleyball, along with girls field hockey, will be MHSAA-regulated in 2025-2026, it’s been the boys who have stepped onto the court in unfamiliar territory and shown what they can bring to the table.

Rochester Adams, one of 11 teams to introduce boys volleyball this season, became part of a brotherhood of 69 teams in the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association, which started with just four teams in 2018.

“We tried last year,” Adams junior Graham Pease said. “We tried doing all three Rochester schools with Stoney, Rochester and Adams, and that didn’t go well because we got shut down for our co-op application. This year, we kind of went at it all through Adams. We got a brand-new teacher, and she’s the head coach at Holly, so we got her on board and we got our other coach, who coaches at Legacy and Adams, and we got her on board. Me and one of my buddies primarily just went around asking. We were both really interested and really wanted to. We missed the deadline at our school to be an official club because it was so hard to get it started, but we just went around begging.”

Pease, who plays competitive club volleyball for L2, was one of two players on the inaugural Adams boys volleyball team with prior volleyball experience with freshman Saswath Velayudham also playing club for L2.

Without Pease, there isn’t a Highlanders boys volleyball program this year. Without a volleyball program, the Highlanders would’ve never felt what it was like to play in the Division 1 state semifinals May 30 at Hudsonville High School.

Through all the obstacles of putting a team together, or even creating a team to begin with, Adams fought through everything to the tune of an 18-5 record and impressive showings in district and regionals to reach the final four. Adams’ state tournament journey would end as it fell to Grand Haven in the semifinals May 30 at Hudsonville High School.

“It’s actually crazy because half of these kids showed up at the last possible second to play because we were asking anyone and everyone to play, and half these kids came the first day of practice having no experience and no clue of what they were getting themselves into,” Adams head coach Isabelle Brown said. “It’s crazy that we didn’t have tryouts, we didn’t have cuts, we charged the least amount of money possible, and we’ve made it this far with how little gym time we’ve had. There’s been so many obstacles thrown at us, and we just keep persevering, and it’s actually so surreal.”

One of the easier obstacles for Pease and the program, which some would think would be the toughest, was finding a competent coach who would be able to teach a group of rag-tag boys volleyball players and elevate them into a competitive squad.

Luckily for Pease, Brown and coach Ali Kranz, both teachers at Adams, have a lengthy resume when it comes to coaching volleyball.

Brown was recently named the head coach for Holly High School girls volleyball after three years as the JV coach, while Kranz holds extensive coaching experience across high school, middle school and club volleyball.

“Our coaches have been so much help,” Pease said. “We owe it all to them. They’ve done so much. We’ve just gone through a lot of stuff.”

Adams had its struggles out the gate with 2-0 losses to Saline and Auburn Hills Avondale High School in two of its first three matchups, but the boys continued to fight and progress day in and day out.

With the help of having tough league competition like Avondale, the league champion, Clarkston, Lake Orion, Macomb Dakota, and Grand Blanc, the Highlanders were constantly tested throughout the season.

“We have a lot of kids that have never played volleyball before, so this is all new to them,” Brown said. “I think for us as the season went, we were able to improve in so many areas. I think that played to our benefit, because I think people were underestimating us and not preparing to play against us. We had so many areas we knew we could make improvements and we had the players we knew could get the job done.”

Riding a six-game win streak and with a trip to regionals on the line, Adams faced off against Avondale one last time this season May 17 at Avondale High School.

Avondale dropped only one set all year to Adams, but the past three matchups were in the rearview for Adams.

Winning 3-1, Adams defeated Avondale to move on to a regional matchup with Hartland, who Adams would later defeat 3-2 to reach the semifinals.

“I think it was just our energy in general,” Pease said. “It was at Avondale, and I think we were walking into that match way more hungry than we were before. I think in the back of our heads we knew we could beat them. Something about walking into that match felt so different. I also think we knew that if we lost, we were done.”

Adams will graduate six seniors from its inaugural squad, but returns a strong junior class and Velayudham as the lone freshman. With the team’s success, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if numbers grow as the team, and the sport itself, continues to gain popularity.